Death on a Pale Horse iis the fourth novella of Carl Douglass’ McGee series. Painted Desert High school principal Bertha Yazzie is murdered, and Lt. Naalnish Begay--head of the field office of the NDCI for the Painted Desert District in Blue Mesa, Arizona suspects her husband. It is soon evident that the case is not so simple. Her computer yields angry interchanges with her husband and passionate vitriol from angry parents, disgruntled employees of the school, and especially from a group that opposes American civilization education for the students. For them, the old Navajo ways are the best ways—the only ways. The investigation is further complicated when two more murders occur on the reservation, and witnesses see a painted Indian rider on a light-gray horse around the time of those murders.
Both of the new victims are associated with the reservation schools, and that introduces new suspects. The situation is so politically charged that Lt. Begay seeks help from his old friend from their early days as FBI agents, J.P.A.M.J. McGee, who is now a famous New York private detective. McGee and his partners arrive on the reservation, and shortly the case becomes more complicated and more political. There are strong forces—FBI agents, witch doctors, and tribal authorities--acting to make the case go away. Neither Begay nor McGee are prone to yield to pressure, and a tense and potentially dangerous situation develops.